Christie (Still) Defends Pulling Plug on ARC Tunnel

Critics say system could've weathered Sandy better.

Remember when lots of people got angry at Chris Christie for canceling a project to build new railway tunnels between New Jersey and Manhattan, citing cost overruns in the project? That happened in 2010, but the anger has flared up this week again. Let Nicole Gelinas, a conservative columnist for the New York Postexplain:

Last week, Amtrak — which runs the tunnel that brings 81,181 people on New Jersey Transit into Penn Station each day — made a doomsday warning.

Two years ago, Superstorm Sandy inundated the tunnel with salt water. The residue is causing “significant damage to key tunnel components,” including tracks, signals and electricity, Amtrak said. “A permanent fix is required.”

To do repairs, Amtrak must shut down each of the tunnel’s two tracks in turn. That means traffic can only run one way at a time — which means cutting Amtrak and NJ Transit service by 75 percent.

And that will result in traffic congestion in Manhattan, she said, as well as traffic and airport delays — possibly for years to come. “It would be nice if we had another tunnel,” Gelinas wrote. “Redundancy in really important things is vital.”

Christie is having none of it, AP reports:

But speaking at a campaign stop in Connecticut Monday, Christie said he “totally” stands by his 2010 decision to scrap a project known as Access to the Region’s Core — or ARC — because his state would have been on the hook for any cost overruns.

“The people of New Jersey did not want to pay $3 to $5 billion in cost overruns for a tunnel that went to the basement of Macy’s,” said Christie, who was in Trumball campaigning for GOP candidate Tom Foley, who is running for governor.

Christie argued the $8.7 billion project wouldn’t have been close to done by now anyway — although it would have been well underway.

In fact, the ARC tunnel would’ve been completed by 2018 — which, given that Amtrak wants to wait for a new tunnel before temporarily closing the old ones — is much sooner than the much, much later the project will now have to take place.

Gelinas says ARC wasn’t perfect, but: “complex projects need leadership — not abandonment. Rather than pretend ARC was worthless, Christie could’ve at the very least started looking for a way to get the tunnel built with less risk to his taxpayers.”